The number of autistic adults has been steadily rising for decades, yet there seem to be fewer programs to meet their growing needs. Many families who cope with autism can attest to feelings of desperation and the limited resources available to them once their child ages out of ‘formal schooling.’ Sadly, in the United States after age twenty-one, many autistic adults tend to fall off the proverbial ‘Services Cliff’ as this is the age in which people with disabilities are no longer entitled to free public education under federal law. The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the great struggle these families face when searching for quality affordable care and educational services. Due to COVID-19, many Adult Day Training programs have been shut down for well over a year, leaving families scrambling for adequate solutions. Patty Mohr, mother of Corey who is twenty-three years old and autistic can attest to this sentiment of ‘treading water’ and states, ‘You have all these special services, then you hit twenty-one and it’s over. You’re on your own.”
Fortunately, one intrepid nonprofit in New Jersey is seeking to change this narrative by throwing a rope to those poised to fall off the ‘Cliff.’ Monmouth Ocean Foundation for Children (MOFFC) has a long history of helping individuals with special needs, and for the last 15 years has focused its efforts on financially supporting programs that enhance the lives of individuals and students with autism. Their newest venture will be launching the Achieve Academy for Adults with Autism. Located at the local Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey this proposed facility is hoping to offer an educational experience for those with Autism who have aged out of formal schooling. The Achieve Academy aspires to provide services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, job training, in addition to life coaching and social skills. It is their hope that these programs will not only benefit their students on their path to independence, but also provide invaluable respite to their struggling families.
As of right now, the Achieve Academy is still but a dream, as their opening timeline is completely dependent on the success of their fundraising goals. Tara Beams, a MOFFC board member, and veteran special needs educator estimated in 2021 that they would need to raise approximately $5 million for the Achieve Academy to open its doors to the local ASD community. This cost includes the necessary building renovations, staff hires, and also the ability to provide scholarships to low-income families to soften the financial burden of tuition. Fundraising is underway at this time. While this goal might seem lofty, Beams is optimistic that with the right help they could offer tuition of $50,000/year compared to many private institutions which cost double or more. The demand for adult services in the community is high and many families have already expressed interest in enrolling. Fundraising events within the local New Jersey community are already underway, if you wish to donate or learn more about the MOFFC and the amazing work they do please click here.